Monday, February 16, 2009

Would You Rather Be Great For 1 Thing for Very Good At A Lot of Things?

As you see above, I recently made a beautiful batch of cannele. I've been tirelessly testing and making cannele every few weeks for almost a year now - testing and researching all aspects of cooking this finicky pastry item, including different batter consistency, batter sit times, high heat oils/wax blends, heating temperature, mold placements, ingredient selection, and cook times. I have to say that as of recently, I have really felt that I have mastered the craft and consistency of making a cannele. When I finished the other night, I looked at my work and I thought to myself, how many people would ever go through all this pain and work just to make a batch of these little custard cakes that take more than 2 days to make and can't sit out for more than 8 hours? Why would a bakery ever devote that time and effort to learn to make a great cannele (only 1 place in SF that I know of, plenty of mediocre ones)?

When I speak of greatness, I am not just talking about trying to make a fantastic dish. I am talking about a full lifetime commitment to doing one thing that is simply divine. It's part technique, part craft, part ritual and part obsession. For many people in the culinary scope, including distillers, winemakers, noodle makers, chocolate makers, etc., it feels like there is that time validated process of truly perfecting a craft - whereas for many restaurateurs and menu driven chefs, that is often an afterthought. Restaurants aim to create menus and offer variations of very high quality items, but very few restaurants will ever acknowledge or even have a signature or a crafted item.

Are we moving into an era where true craftsmanship is becoming lost amongst our smorgasboard of fancies and trends?

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